Rehab 4 Addiction

Most people are aware of the dangers of drinking alcohol and smoking cigarettes during and after pregnancy, but what about using cannabis?

As the popularity of this substance has increased, there has been a rise in the number of women using cannabis during and b pregnancy

During pregnancy, any substance that you ingest has the potential to affect your developing baby.

This includes:

  • The foods that you eat and drink
  • Anything that you put on your skin
  • And the substances that you ingest by smoking, vaping, injecting, snorting or applying as a topical lotion. 

As a result, using cannabis in any form during and after pregnancy can be harmful to both you and your baby and it is not recommended to use this substance if you are planning to become or are currently pregnant.

What is Cannabis?

cannabis plant

Although cannabis is illegal in many countries, including the UK, it is one of the most commonly used illicit substances in the world.

There are three types of plants used in the production of cannabis: Cannabis sativa, Cannabis indica and Cannabis ruderalis.

The dried flowers of each of these plants can be smoked, vaped or eaten, resulting in several potential side effects such as relaxation, increased hunger and paranoia.

Also known as marijuana, weed, pot or grass, cannabis is made up of cannabinoids that can cause a range of effects.

The two most widely-studied cannabinoids are tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) which causes the feeling of being ‘high’ and cannabidiol (CBD) which is thought to decrease inflammation and pain.

Many people use cannabis as a form of entertainment, relaxation or to relieve stress.

However, it is thought to contribute to feelings of anxiety, depression and paranoia and may exacerbate certain mental health conditions such as schizophrenia and borderline personality disorder (BPD).

Is Cannabis addictive?

cannabis addiction

There is an ongoing debate surrounding the addictive properties of cannabis, but the majority of studies support the theory that this substance has the potential to be psychologically addictive.

As the use of cannabis has become more common, the rates of cannabis addiction have increased.

This may also be due to the fact that the strength of this substance has been steadily rising, with some strains containing extremely high levels of THC.

Cannabis can cause physical changes in the brain as it adapts to the presence of this substance, altering the brain chemistry until the affected person feels as though they need to use cannabis to function normally.

If you are experiencing severe cravings for cannabis, feel anxious and agitated if you are not able to use it and need to use more cannabis to get the same effects, you may be suffering from cannabis addiction.

How many women are using Cannabis during pregnancy?

cannabis pregnancy

Despite the many warnings about the dangers of cannabis use to unborn babies, a large number of women are using this substance during pregnancy.

One study found that 20% of pregnant women aged 24 and under used cannabis during their pregnancy, however, the exact number is not known. [1]

The most common time for a woman to use cannabis is in her early twenties and this coincides with the average age of a woman’s first pregnancy

The highest rates of cannabis use in pregnancy are attributed to younger and socioeconomically disadvantaged women, but many women outside of this range have also been found to use this substance during pregnancy.

Some people believe that cannabis can help alleviate nausea and other pregnancy-related symptoms, but there is not enough data to prove that the benefits outweigh the risks

What are the potential effects of Cannabis use on unborn babies?

pregnancy

It has historically been difficult to ethically study the effects of cannabis on unborn babies, but a small number of studies do exist.

Current research shows a clear link between cannabis use during pregnancy and harmful effects on the baby, both inside and outside the womb. [2]

Some of the more common effects include:

  • Decreased oxygen levels
  • Low birth weight, weighing less than 2500g
  • Small length and head size
  • Increased risk of premature birth
  • Increased risk of stillbirths

While the majority of studies have found no clear links between cannabis use and increased birth defects some do point to a higher risk of unborn babies developing gastroschisis, a condition in which the intestines are exposed outside of the body.

These effects remain the same no matter the method of ingestion, so it is not considered safe to smoke, vape, consume or apply cannabis in a topical form while pregnant.

What are the potential effects of Cannabis use on newborn babies and young children?

babies

The harmful effects of cannabis use are not restricted to unborn babies – in fact, this substance can have a long-lasting and crippling impact on the child for the remainder of its life.

As mentioned above, cannabis use increases the chances of experiencing premature birth as well as a low birth rate.

These can have long-term effects on the baby as they increase the risk of developing learning difficulties or other debilitating conditions.

While some studies have found no evidence of withdrawal from cannabis in newborn babies, others have reported several temporary withdrawal symptoms such as increased crying, tremors and difficulty settling into a regular sleep pattern.

Some studies also suggest the possibility of developmental delays as the child grows older.

These may include hyperactivity, aggression, memory problems and difficulty focusing as well as an increased risk of developing anxiety and depression.

Can Cannabis increase the chances of miscarriage?

pregnant miscarriage

Every pregnant woman has the potential to miscarry, regardless of her general health and wellbeing. 

A small number of studies have found a connection between cannabis use during pregnancy and an increased risk of miscarriage, while others have been unable to verify this claim.

Regardless of the limited amount of research findings, it is recommended that all pregnant women should limit their use of addictive substances including caffeine, alcohol and nicotine.

As it has the potential to cause dependency, cannabis falls into this category.

It has not been proven that using this substance during pregnancy is safe, so women should avoid using cannabis during and after pregnancy.

Can the effects of Cannabis be passed through breastmilk?

breast feeding

It has been proven that THC is present in breastmilk and can be passed from mother to baby through breastfeeding. [3]

It is also thought that cannabis may have an effect on the quality and amount of breastmilk produced, as some studies have shown that it interacts with the hormone that instructs the body to begin milk production.

Additionally, the presence of THC in breastmilk may also indicate that other contaminants from the cannabis can make their way into the milk supply and therefore into your baby. 

When you purchase cannabis from a dealer or from the internet, there is no way to know for sure which chemicals and additives it has been laced with. 

As cannabis production is illegal, there are no standard health and safety checks and as a result, many batches are often laced with pesticides, fungi and harmful chemicals which can have a devastating effect on your baby’s development. 

Based on the above factors it is highly recommended that breastfeeding mothers should avoid using cannabis and other addictive substances due to the high likelihood of passing chemicals and contaminants onto their baby.

Is it safer to vape Cannabis while pregnant?

vaping

A common misconception surrounding cannabis is the idea that smoking causes harmful effects, rather than the substance itself.

In fact, the levels of THC present in cannabis are the primary factor that has the potential to harm unborn and newborn babies. 

Some people believe that they can escape these effects if they vape cannabis, but this is not the case.

Vaping involves inhaling the substance in the form of water vapour, and cannabis ingested via this process still contains high levels of THC. 

Consuming cannabis in an edible form is also unsafe, as the levels of THC can still be passed on to the developing baby through the umbilical cord.

It is not recommended to smoke, vape or consume cannabis during or after pregnancy, as the potentially harmful effects of THC could have a negative effect on both the mother and baby.

Is it legal to use Cannabis while pregnant?

pregnant woman

Despite cannabis being legalised in many countries across the world, it remains illegal to possess, use, produce and sell this substance in the United Kingdom

Cannabis is classified as a Class B substance in the UK, carrying a maximum sentence of 5 years in prison for possession and up to 14 years in prison for production and supply. [4]

As a result, it is not permitted to use cannabis while pregnant or breastfeeding.

In very rare cases some people may be eligible for an NHS prescription for medical marijuana, such as those with severe epilepsy or multiple sclerosis.

However, it is extremely unlikely for cannabis to be prescribed to pregnant women or new mothers due to the potential risks that this substance carries. 

There is also not enough data to show the potential benefits as opposed to the risks, as well as any standard dosages or methods of delivery.

Instead, pregnant women will be offered alternative treatments for their condition or symptoms that do not involve cannabis.

Can using Cannabis make it more difficult for me to get pregnant?

pregnancy test

Now that we have established the risks of using cannabis during and after pregnancy, you may be wondering whether this substance can affect your chances of conceiving a baby in the first place.

A study conducted by the National Institute of Health (NIH) has shown a potential link between cannabis use and disrupted menstrual cycles in women, which can affect their chances of becoming pregnant.  

This study involved 1,200 women aged between 18 and 40 who were attempting to become pregnant.

The participants who reported using cannabis were found to be 40% less likely to conceive than those who did not use cannabis. [5]

The HIH also found that cannabis may influence the hormones that cause ovulation, which could be a factor in impacting conception.

Some research involving animals has found a potential link between cannabis and the lining of the uterus, suggesting that this substance can make it more difficult for an embryo to implant and develop into a successful pregnancy.

If you are planning to start trying for a baby, it is highly recommended that you stop using cannabis and all other addictive substances in preparation for a healthy pregnancy.

How to safely stop using Cannabis while pregnant

pregnancy beach

Pregnancy can be a stressful time, and this can be made even more difficult when you attempt to stop using a substance that you have become dependent on.

However, the risk that cannabis poses to your unborn child means that it is crucial that you stop using this substance as soon as possible.

It is recommended that anyone attempting to conceive a child should stop their cannabis use three months in advance, to allow time for the substance to leave their system.

If you are already pregnant and continuing to use cannabis, you should speak to your doctor as soon as possible to discuss your options.

It is important that you are honest and open about your cannabis use as well as any other addictive substances.

Our team at Rehab 4 Addiction can also refer you to a number of treatment centres that provide a wide range of behavioural therapy options. 

These may include cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) which can help change your thoughts and therefore your behaviour, or motivational enhancement interviewing (MET) which can help you to find the motivation and drive to make healthy lifestyle changes.

You can also use alternative and holistic therapies such as yoga, mindfulness and meditation to help you overcome a cannabis addiction.

These types of treatment are extremely effective when combined with the above therapy options and can help you to stop using cannabis for the health of yourself and your baby.

Recovery is possible.Contact Rehab 4 Addiction by calling 08001404690 todayfor information on your local rehabilitation services.

References

[1] https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/research-reports/marijuana/can-marijuana-use-during-pregnancy-harm-baby

[2] https://www.cdc.gov/marijuana/factsheets/pregnancy.htm

[3] https://www.medway.nhs.uk/services/maternity/Maternity%20Patient%20Leaflets/Cannabis%20and%20Pregnancy.pdf 

[4] https://www.gov.uk/penalties-drug-possession-dealing 

[5] https://www.nih.gov/news-events/news-releases/nih-study-suggests-using-cannabis-while-trying-conceive-may-reduce-pregnancy-chances

boris

Boris is our editor-in-chief at Rehab 4 Addiction. Boris is an addiction expert with more than 20 years in the field.  His expertise covers a broad of topics relating to addiction, rehab and recovery. Boris is an addiction therapist and assists in the alcohol detox and rehab process. Boris has been featured on a variety of websites, including the BBC, Verywell Mind and Healthline.